At its very very basest, I’d centre on two arguments:
- 93%. In Fleishman-Hillard’s survey of the online habits of MEPs last year we found that they pretty much all use web search every day to conduct research on policy issues (the aforementioned 93%). That in itself is immensely important; and presumably, figures for other politicians, key officials at EU or national level and members of the press are equally unambiguous. Organisations conducting Public Affairs thus need to have a presence online if they want their views to be seen, which in practice requires strategies covering: a) content; and b) visibility to target audiences (especially search, and in most cases, engagement.)
- The growing convergence of government relations and bigger world issues and reputation, as represented by this basic visual. Meaning what? That issues that affect public opinion and consequently an industry or organisation’s reputation must be addressed in a government relations context more so than has been the case in the past. Put simply, convincing policy-makers is not enough anymore; you need to persuade numerous stakeholders, and then consequently prove you’ve done so to the policy-makers. In practice, this is far broader than just digital: it involves employing the whole communications toolkit to listen to, reach and engage a far wider set of stakeholders than before. To conclude: mastering policy minutiae and the policy-making process are essential, but PA professionals need to pick a leaf out of the NGO handbook and think like campaigners, on and offline.